Howl-O-Scream: The inaugural fear


Photo provided by: Avery Ranum

Beginning Sept. 10, Howl-O-Scream opened for its first frightening night at SeaWorld. While it was the parks’ first year hosting the event, Busch Gardens, a neighboring amusement park owned by SeaWorld, has been doing something similar since 1999.

Avery Ranum, Features Editor

SeaWorld is not usually the first park I think of when I think “scary.” Neighboring parks, such as Universal which hosts “Halloween Horror Nights” and Walt Disney World which hosts “Boo Bash”, are popular spots for Halloween festivities. However, SeaWorld is making an unexpected debut to the scare stage with their first annual “Howl-O-Scream,” event hosted by the park that certainly spooked this novice.

The event offered four haunted houses, two of which I opted to go through during my visit on Saturday, Sept. 18. I visited “Beneath the Ice” early in the evening, so I did not have to wait long before entering. Traveling with my friends in a group of four left us exposed to the multiple scare actors that popped out from every angle. The house theme aimed to imitate a lost research base in the Arctic Circle, and I believe this was adequately achieved. Most of the rooms appeared to be the dark, messy, bloodied aftermath of an attack. What really took the house to the next level were the scare actors. Even after passing through the first few rooms expecting to be progressively less scared, I still felt surprised after every new spook. Given my inexperience with haunted houses, my travel party agreed that we all needed to take a seat after being in what felt like a never-ending maze. 

Walking between different attractions, I often found myself accidentally entering scare zones, specified areas where scare actors follow, startle, and interact with guests. The zones varied by theme, ranging from a spooky campsite to a haunted pirate ship. There were times where, if my group and I wanted to travel anywhere, we were forced to enter these areas, which was a bit irritating to someone easily scared. When crowds were at their peak, the zones were dispersed enough that I got scared at least once in each. Around 1 a.m., even as the event was coming to a close, the scare actors were still invigorated and in character. Better yet, with most crowds dissipated, the interactions were a bit more personalized. At one point, I had three scare actors all focused on me, with one asking if she could have my teeth and another warning me that danger was lurking nearby. Overall, the scare zones definitely delivered in terms of fright and fun. 

Possibly one of the most prominent highlights of my night were the rides that were left open, like Mako, which offered virtually no wait time. Since most others were off enjoying the scare attractions, my friends and I were able to just stay in the same seats when the ride came back to the loading area. By the end of the night, I had ridden it eight times, an otherwise time-consuming and nearly impossible feat had it been a normal operating day. To me, this was one of the most underrated parts of the night. Considering the park was lacking in the Halloween themes the event is meant for, it made my night more memorable. 

All in all, I would definitely recommend Howl-O-Scream for anyone who is looking to get scared this season or cheat the normally long wait times for rides. I am excited to see how the event will grow and develop as it ages, and I hope to return soon.